Harvard University announced Wednesday that it is launching the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research with a $15 million gift from a family foundation endowed by financier and Harvard alum Glenn Hutchins. The Hutchins Center will supersede the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute for African and African American Research, which houses the institutes, archives, publications and libraries associated with Harvard’s well-known Department of African and African-American Studies.
The new center will encompass the Du Bois Research Institute, the Hiphop Archive and Research Institute, the Image of the Black Archive and Library, the Du Bois Review, Transition Magazine, the Neil L. and Angelica Zander Rudenstine Gallery, and the Hutchins Family Library.
In addition, four new research entities will come under the purview of the Hutchins Center. They are the Afro-Latin American Research Institute; the History Design Studio; the Program for the Study of Race and Gender in Science and Medicine; and the Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African and African American Art, according to the university.
Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and founding director of the Hutchins Center, said in a statement that the expansion of university resources for African and African American research represents a development that would have been heartily embraced by Du Bois, the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard. The Du Bois Research Institute was founded in 1975.
“With this unprecedented gift from the Hutchins Family Foundation, we secure our place as the pre-eminent site for research about the African diaspora in the academy. What we have built under the rubric of the Du Bois Institute will continue to grow through the Hutchins Center with even greater global reach, in a way that would have made the public-minded Dr. Du Bois proud,” Gates said.
The Hutchins’ gift is part of a $30-million donation he gave to Harvard in 2012 that established the Hutchins Family Challenge Fund for House Renewal and to back academic initiatives of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Hutchins is a co-founder of Silver Lake, a major investment firm that invests in technology companies.
“The Hutchins Center will house a group of world-leading research institutes and programs, all vitally important and all equally dedicated to the creation of cutting-edge knowledge in the field of African and African-American research,” he said in a statement.
Hutchins recently told the New York Times that prior to meeting Gates more than a decade ago he had long been an admirer of the professor’s work as a scholar and public intellectual. Since joining the Harvard faculty more than two decades ago, Gates has become a renowned academic who has popularized Black studies through books, TV shows, web content, and documentaries.
“[Gates] is responsible for what I’ll call the quattrocento of African-American studies,” Hutchins told the New York Times, referring to the turning point period from when the Renaissance emerged from the medieval era in Europe.
In addition to the Hutchins Center development, the university announced on Wednesday that it will be awarding the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal to six leaders across the arts, public affairs, and athletics during a ceremony on Oct. 2. The medal ceremony will mark the official launch of the Hutchins Center.
Honorees will be Rep. John Lewis, U.S. congressman; Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to the president of the United States; Tony Kushner, award-winning playwright; Justice Sonia Sotomayor, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court; David Stern, commissioner of the National Basketball Association and Steven Spielberg, film director and producer.
“Dr. Du Bois, cosmopolitan in his taste and manners, worked tirelessly to produce and publish learning in all areas of the African diaspora, keenly aware of the need to bring this information to the public. This year’s Du Bois Medals are presented to a most distinguished roster of recipients in the spirit of intellectual achievement and social engagement,” Gates said.